Manchester’s best restaurants for outdoor dining

When the sun’s out, Manchester gets busy – its squares, parks and canalsides flood with people. But even when it’s not summery, there are some great spots around the city for eating and drinking outdoors, whether you’re looking for a casual bite or somewhere stylish and upmarket to enjoy a great cocktail with dinner.

Escape To Freight Island
One of the newer kids on the block, Escape To Freight Island – a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Station – is tailor-made for an al fresco audience. There, you can get your hands on some fantastic food from traders drawn from around the city. These include Ramsbottom’s Basque open-fire cooking specialists Baratxuri, Northenden Vietnamese restaurant Mi & Pho, and Brooklyn-inspired pizza makers Voodoo Ray’s. Expect a full range of cocktails, wine, and craft beer, and a laid-back festival vibe.

Bar San Juan
Over in Chorlton, Bar San Juan has quietly been serving up some of the region’s best tapas for quite some time. Its outdoor space looks out onto the busy and independent-crammed Beech Road, making it the perfect location to enjoy croquetas, espinacas con garbanzos and boquerones with a quality Albariño, whilst imagining yourself on the streets of Madrid.

20 Stories
360-degree views across Greater Manchester and mixology supreme are what you can expect at 20 Stories, situated in the heart of the Spinningfields district. Twenty floors up, this venue boasts an enormously popular roof terrace where you can enjoy bar snacks like seafood platters and Korean lamb skewers. A perfect excuse for getting dressed up and making the evening memorable.

Known for imaginative small plates as well as unbelievable Sunday roasts, this neighbourhood restaurant’s relaxed terrace provides a fantastic place to watch the world go by. Situated in leafy West Didsbury, a short tram ride away from the city centre, Volta – a place stacked full of character, style, and great food – is well worth the trip. You’ll soon see why their roast dinners are second-to-none.

Think of al fresco eating and your mind might jump to meat-heavy barbecues – but not here. Tucked away in the Northern Quarter is Alvarium, a neighbourhood eatery specialising in vegan food and great cocktails. Tables line the little square outside the bar where locals can sit back and enjoy dishes like polenta fries with black garlic aioli and shiitake and haricot bean hotdogs served with homemade beetroot chilli.

Edge Street has the looks and the vibes – not to mention 22-inch New York-style pizzas from Nell’s based at the uber-cool Common. It’s a bar with atmosphere and attitude, dishing up single slices and whole pizzas – up there with the city’s very best – for hungry al fresco diners sitting and socialising up and down the street, enjoying a pint or two.

Dukes 92
No list of Manchester’s outdoor spaces would be complete without the inclusion of Dukes 92, the Castlefield bar and restaurant which is often the place to be. From its spacious outdoor area overlooking the canal, you can watch the world go by whilst enjoying shareable pizza boards, grass-fed steaks, a hearty cheeseburger, or a light chicken & coconut noodle bowl.

Salvi’s Mozzarella Bar
The Corn Exchange – a historic listed building housing a range of restaurants from around the world – is a must-visit for any food lover in Manchester, with loads of outside space available. One of its finest is Salvi’s, a family-run Italian with other locations around the city. The food is authentic and the wide-ranging menu offers something to suit any palate, made using top quality ingredients straight from Campania.

The Jane Eyre
Ancoats’ Cutting Room Square is a hub for excellent bars and restaurants, but The Jane Eyre was an instant hit when it opened. It serves up small plates and some of the best and most imaginative cocktails you’ll find in the city. They’re best enjoyed whilst soaking up the sun on the city’s most popular public square, overlooked by the historic Hallé St Peters, a restored church hailing from the time of the Industrial Revolution.

The Refuge by Volta
One of the city’s most historic and beautiful buildings – the former Refuge Assurance Company, now home to the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel – is where you’ll find The Refuge, which has recently opened its outdoor space. At the new courtyard, which is heated, covered, and lined with greenery, diners can enjoy a specially curated menu, featuring new offerings as well as some of their popular ‘voltini’ (small plates).

The Oast House
In the heart of the city, enjoy drinks and hanging kebabs at this must-visit venue which evokes memories of holidays in sunnier locations. The Oast House boasts a large sun-trap square where you can dine on a succulent kebab, salt and pepper wings, or even a lamb pie, whilst drinking a spritz from their very own ‘Oastess Trolley’.

Visit OpenTable to discover more of Manchester’s best restaurants.

This post is from Manchester-based culture, food & drink writer Charlie Spargo, a dining and cooking enthusiast who’s contributed to national titles and local platforms including The Telegraph, Creative Tourist and I Love Manchester. Follow him on Twitter via @charliespargo and Instagram at @charlie_spargo.

Photo Credit: Jody Hartley for Escape To Freight Island and The Refuge.